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The third space – achieve work-life balance on the journey home

Good "work-life balance" is increasingly seen as crucial to employee productivity and well-being.

The trick is how to achieve the balance between work and other important aspects of life such as family and friends.

One man with an answer is Dr Adam Fraser, CEO of the Energy Factory and author of the book The Third Space.

Fraser's point of focus is the gap between work and home – the period when we shed our work persona and put our 'private face' on.   How does one switch off from work and make the transition?

Fraser found clues working with soldiers returning from Iraq, who had to make the transition from vigilant soldier to calm, empathetic, loving family man.

It was realised that the way we use the "third space" between each activity and environment helps us drop the baggage from the previous interaction, allowing us to assume the right behaviours to get the most out of the next environment we are entering.

Along with Deakin University researcher John Molineux, Fraser examined a group of small-to-medium enterprise owners and corporate employees, only 29 per cent of whom observed that they came home in a positive mood.  Whether they drove, walked or took public transport had no impact on their happiness.

Researchers observed, however, that people were happier if they had done something else on the way home such as exercise, socialise, shop or dine out.

Assuming employees did not have this choice and had to head straight home, they were asked to do three things on their journey:

1)      Reflect – participants were asked to reflect on the day and how they had improved at work

2)      Rest – allocate some time to turn off their brain and be calm and present; this reduced the level of negative neurotransmitters that predispose people to irrational behaviour

3)      Reset – as they got closer to home, participants were asked to be clear on what their intention was for the evening and the exact behaviour they wanted to exhibit when they got through the door.

After practicing these techniques for two weeks, participants saw a 41 per cent improvement in happiness levels in the home.  These techniques were also used by some on the way into work and also at work.

Fraser trained a sales team to enter the 'third space' between calls and meetings in order to shed baggage from the previous encounter.

It resulted in a significant increase in lead conversion and a reduction in stress and anxiety levels of the team.

Corporate leaders also practiced this technique between meetings and reported improvements.

Fraser is also an exponent of the art of 'flow', the state of mind where we feel completely engaged, exhibit positive emotions and are so absorbed in our work that we lose track of time.  In other words, we are "in the zone" and not distracted.

iHR believes that, by understanding concepts such as the 'third space' and 'flow', both leaders and employees can take steps to improve work-life balance and productivity and enrich their personal and professional lives.

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